Requiem for an Icon
Along with most of the world, I was stunned and saddened by David Bowie’s death. It’s the kind of thing where you know that even an otherworldly performer and immortal pop culture icon like David Bowie is not going to be around forever.
And yet, you don’t want him to be gone from this world. Last week the world got just a little darker.
So, I’d already ordered BLACKSTAR because it had gotten good reviews, and I wanted to see where Bowie was going, without realizing that I’d get smacked in the face with the news of his death between the time I’d ordered it and the time I received the album.
I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t approached listening to this last Bowie album with real pain and trepidation.
I couldn’t help but think of AMADEUS, and Mozart working on his requiem mass, when contemplating this album. Keep in mind, I’m not the lyrics police; I process music very much through the sounds themselves, so I walked through it with my ears and my heart, and not with a mind to parse lyrics.
Soundtrack for Oblivion
That said, it’s a lovely album. It’s a painful parting, but it’s a beautiful one, and it’s a credit to Bowie for going out on a strong (if dark) note. The haunting videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” carried a lot of heartbreak, that final curtain call for Bowie. Both are strong tracks, painful and enigmatic.
But there are some other great tracks on this album, too — I dig “‘Tis a Pity She was a Whore” — the mechanical bump-and-grind of it makes it like a cadaverous cabaret tune, marvelous, menacing and ribald.
I also really liked “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” — which has some very jazzy percussion in it that conjures up a chase scene in a Science Fiction urban dystopian nightmare.
“Girl Loves Me” is creepy, thumping piece that creates an inexorable progression that marches you against the wall. “Dollar Days” picks up the mournful saxophone hints from “Lazarus” before taking it up into a lovely and wistful tune. “I Can’t Give Everything Away” feels like a nod to 80s Bowie, smoothly-produced and cool.
The album as a whole feels like a soundtrack for oblivion — a lovely soundtrack, to be sure, but for a bittersweet and melancholy film that ends all too soon. I definitely found myself wanting more after working through the seven tracks. This is not a party album, but it’s a sweet and soulful serenade made for small groups and intimate venues.
And, as the note that Bowie went out on, it was a good one. He faced his end with courage, creativity and grace.
I enjoy the album a great deal, despite the pathos it conjures up.